By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair stood to a hearty cheer from his caucus and, when the applause had quieted, he attempted a joke.
“Mr. Speaker, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, to Peru apparently,” he quipped.
There were grumbles and complaints from the government side—it being unparliamentary to refer to the presence, or at least the lack thereof, of anyone in the House of Commons. Mr. Mulcair hadn’t quite done that here, but the Speaker was compelled to intervene here anyway and call for order.
The floor was returned to Mr. Mulcair and the NDP leader now proceeded to recap the story so far, a mix of the acknowledged, the alleged and the reported. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Benjamin Perrin, former legal advisor to the Prime Minister, in regards to last night’s story from CTV.
Last night’s CTV story in relation to me, which is based on unattributed sources, is false.
I was not consulted on, and did not participate in, Nigel Wright’s decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy’s expenses.
I have never communicated with the Prime Minister on this matter.
In all my work, I have been committed to making our country a better place and I hope my record of service speaks for itself.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 5:04 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Liberal MP Scott Andrews.
“The revelations about ethical misconduct in the Prime Minister’s Office are truly outrageous to Canadians. That is why today I gave notice of motion at the House of Commons Ethics committee calling for a thorough investigation into this matter.
The Liberal Party will be calling on the Ethics committee to invite as witnesses the Prime Minister, former and current senior PMO staffers, as well as Conservative Senate leaders and Senator Mike Duffy.
It is of paramount importance that Canadians be assured of transparency and full disclosure by this government, and thus far, Mr. Harper has failed to answer Canadians’ very valid questions.
We trust we will receive the support of all parties – including Conservative MPs – in order to get to the bottom of this troubling scandal. While Mr. Harper may call it a ‘distraction’, Canadians expect real answers and the truth, and Liberals will continue to work on their behalf.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 1:15 PM - 0 Comments
In his letter to the elections commissioner last Friday about whether Mike Duffy had claimed Senate expenses while campaigning for the Conservatives in the last election, NDP MP Craig Scott named several other senators whose expenses might be scrutinized.
As noted, Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell told me on Friday that he claimed no expenses during the writ period. Today, Liberal Senator David Smith called me to say he had not claimed expenses during the last election and the office of Conservative Senator Nancy Greene Raine emailed me with a statement from the senator.
“I was very careful during the writ period not to claim any expenses connected with campaigning on my Senate budget.”
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 12:44 PM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when opposition and government MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. Today, QP runs from 2 p.m. until just past 3 p.m. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. Once a week, we’ll feature a guest blogger to sort through the madness. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Read our morning tease to catch up on the issues of the day, and then chime in on Twitter with #QP.
Questions abound about the personal cheque former PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright handed to Senator Mike Duffy, since resigned from the Conservative caucus, to cover over $90,000 in improperly claimed expenses. Also, Senator Pamela Wallin resigned from the Tory caucus, and a number of Senators are speaking up about the need for consequences for colleagues who break the rules. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who addressed his caucus this morning, won’t field questions in the House. He’s flying to Peru, but his designated point person will surely have their hands full.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister arrived to the stage with a slight smile, an acknowledgement perhaps of his caucus’ willingness to stand and applaud his presence at this particular moment. He quickly turned serious.
“Good morning, everyone. Colleagues, obviously the reason I’m speaking to you this morning is I want to talk about some events that have transpired recently. And I don’t think any of you are going to be very surprised to hear that I’m not happy,” he said. “I’m very upset…”
So upset that he would commit here and now to release any and all relevant documents and correspondence in the possession of his office? So upset that he would submit to a news conference today to address the allegations concerning his former top aide? So upset that he would detail precisely what he knows about the arrangement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy? So upset that he would offer any kind of explanation here now with all these cameras summoned to transmit his remarks to the nation?
No, no, not that upset. Just upset enough to feel it necessary to tell everyone that he was indeed upset. A revelation that even he conceded was not much of a surprise.
“… about some conduct we have witnessed, the conduct of some parliamentarians and the conduct of my own office.”
In fact, we have not witnessed anything except the spectacle of a government attempting to slowly explain how one of the Prime Minister’s appointees in the Senate had come to pay back some unfortunately claimed expenses and how the Prime Minister’s chief of staff had come to be involved in the return of those funds. The actual events in question occurred entirely in secret.
Now though we would witness self-congratulation paraded for all to see. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 10:03 AM - 0 Comments
Last night, via email, I asked Senator Marjory LeBreton, the government’s leader in the Senate, about the Senate’s investigation of Mike Duffy. Specifically: Do you have any reason to believe the Senate investigation and audit of Mr. Duffy’s expenses were affected by the agreement between Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright?
Here is her response.
The audits tabled are those received from Deloitte. The covering reports from Internal Economy used language for Harb and Brazeau to facilitate the recovery of the money. The language was not used in the Report on Duffy because the money had been paid back. These reports were written and approved by the Internal Economy Committee and no one else.
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
This story will get buried by all the other news today. That’s understandable, but I wish it weren’t so. It’s about a long-term government failure.
In 2007 Maxime Bernier created the Science, Technology and Innovation Council to measure Canada’s science and technology performance against that of comparable countries around the world. It’s produced reports every two years. The latest was released this morning while most of us were caught up in some other hilarity on the Hill.
The STIC council, as it’s called, is a big-name panel of advisors both inside government and outside. Its current membership includes the deputy ministers of Industry, Trade and Health; the presidents of Western, Alberta and McGill Universities; and a brochette of CEOs, principally from the energy sector.
Its third biennial report is devastating. Well, maybe I shouldn’t be throwing a word like that around in a week like this one, but it’s full of bad news anyway. Here’s some jargon, which I’ll translate:
State of the Nation 2012 shows that Canada’s gross domestic expenditures on R&D (GERD) declined from their peak in 2008 and, when measured in relation to gross domestic product (GDP), since 2001. In contrast, the GERD and GERD intensity of most other countries have been increasing. Canada’s declining GERD intensity has pushed its rank down from 16th position in 2006 to 17th in 2008 and to 23rd in 2011 (among 41 economies).
That means that by the broadest measure of expenditure on research and development, Canada has fallen from 16th out of 41 comparable countries in the year Stephen Harper became prime minister, to 23rd in 2011. Continue…
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 9:05 AM - 0 Comments
Amid the wreckage, the Conservatives in Ottawa still must govern. How they do that when two of their own Senators quit caucus late last week, and then their boss’s top aide resigned in the middle of a long weekend, is no easy task. Their headaches, mostly fuelled by the relentless reporting of CTV’s Robert Fife, will pound all week. Aaron Wherry and Paul Wells and John Geddes explain why this will be a long week.
- Related coverage: 12 thoughts on the Duffy scandal
The Toronto Star calls the current conniption enveloping Ottawa—the Mike Duffy Affair, let’s call it—the “worst scandal” that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s gang has faced since they took power on the promise of unprecedented transparency and accountability in 2006. In Ottawa, what anyone usually means by scandal is a thing the government has done to piss off its critics. Harper’s scandals have gone mostly unpunished by voters, despite its critics being so routinely pissed off by so many things. Even when Conservatives were found guilty during the “in-and-out” affair that saw them improperly shuffle money around during the election campaign that brought them to power, John Geddes recalls, the party claimed victory. They were also found in contempt of Parliament, and we all know what real victory they claimed not long after, in May 2011. They’ve always found a way.
But the last week in federal politics would actually have made good television—depending on your tastes, obviously. Maybe that’s the barometer of what counts as real controversy. The Liberals’ demise a few years back, the Sponsorship Scandal, would have kind-of-sort-of made good TV. There was lots of corruption, anyway. So, when Harper stands up to address his caucus this morning, with cameras rolling, we’ll see how he looks on stage.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 10:33 PM - 0 Comments
CTV reports tonight that the Prime Minister’s legal advisor was involved in drafting the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy.
Sources told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that back in February, Benjamin Perrin helped draft the letter of understanding that called for Duffy to publicly declare that he would repay the money. In return, sources say, Wright would give a personal cheque to Duffy to cover the $90,000. Sources say the agreement also stipulated that a Senate investigation into expense claims would go easy on Duffy.
So will the Prime Minister’s Office now release the terms of that agreement? Apparently not.
The PMO also declined to release the letter of agreement, saying it is now in the hands of Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, who is investigating Wright’s $90,000 cheque to Duffy.
What the Prime Minister’s Office has done is invite reporters to watch the Prime Minister deliver a speech to the Conservative caucus tomorrow morning. If Mr. Harper is later going to entertain questions from reporters, the PMO has yet to say so. But perhaps the Prime Minister’s remarks could involve reading aloud the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy.
Meanwhile, the Globe has video of Mike Duffy declining to explain himself as he’s chased through the Ottawa airport.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 2:35 PM - 0 Comments
Our govt has the highest ethical standards demonstrated by 3 resignations: 2 from Senate caucus & the PM chief of staff.
It’s a clear demo of accountability folks from some other parties could emulate.
Indeed. It is by precisely that measure that the Nixon administration is widely considered to be the most ethical in American history.
How might the Harper government demonstrate even higher ethical standards this week? The Prime Minister could start tomorrow by convening a news conference, at which he could stand and face at least a dozen questions from reporters. The Prime Minister’s Office could release any and all paperwork related to the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy. The government’s leadership in the Senate could also appear publicly to face questions about their knowledge of the situation.
Conservative MPs could aid the government they support by demanding that Nigel Wright appear before a parliamentary committee and inviting Mike Duffy to do likewise.
Ms. Crockatt is right, in a way. Ensuring that certain consequences follow from questionable actions is part of being accountable. But so is fully and completely explaining the events in questions and opening oneself to public scrutiny.
Update 10:36pm. Ms. Crockatt would like to explain herself.
After a deluge of sarcastic comments from Twitter users — such as, “That’s like a criminal saying he has the highest ethical standards because he went to jail” — Crockatt told the Herald that her comment has been misinterpreted. When asked to clarify what she meant, Crockatt said, “That accepting the resignations was the right thing to do.”
By macleans.ca - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 8:23 AM - 0 Comments
Politicians and pundits weigh in on Nigel Wright’s resignation and what comes next:
The Toronto Star
“Mike Duffy is radioactive. The one-time Conservative cheerleader is now the poster boy for the filth which envelops the party brand. The man holed up on Friendly Lane in Cavendish, P.E.I., has brought down one of the most powerful men in Canada, shaken the Stephen Harper government to its core and blown a hole in the confidence the increasingly skeptical Conservative base has in the party.”
Vern White, Conservative Senator and former Ottawa police chief
Interview in the Ottawa Citizen
“Loyalty can never override integrity. And I hope everyone else in the Senate starts to get their head around that. Now, some have that, but I hope everybody starts understanding that integrity’s all we have, that loyalty can’t be more important than integrity.”
The Chronicle Herald
“I’m almost ashamed to admit this now, but I once considered Mike Duffy a friend.”
Tim Powers, VP Summa Strategies
Interview in the Hill Times
“I think there are Senators who make immense contributions, whether it be on the mental health front like Marjory LeBreton, or Hugh Segal, and Romeo Dallaire, when it comes to advocacy around combat issues and child soldiers All of that is obscured by the actions and behaviour of a few—but it is not just obscuring, it’s almost becoming an eclipse.”
The Ottawa Citizen
“The loss of Nigel Wright is also Canada’s loss. As I mentioned in a Citizen op-ed last September when he was being attacked by opposition parties for his business connections, “his firm commitment to public service — in this case, politics — has never been a mystery.” Very few people of his stature and experience would ever take a significant pay cut and come to Ottawa. Sure, his position at Onex was always secure — and my guess is he’ll go back there. But the fact still remains that he didn’t have to come, and he was never forced to stay. Unfortunately, Wright made a huge tactical error and paid the ultimate price.”
Norman Spector, former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney
Interview in the Hill Times
“There are a lot less consequential matters that a chief of staff would seek direction on or inform the Prime Minister about. I can’t imagine doing anything of this consequence without informing the Prime Minister, and I can’t imagine doing anything like cutting a cheque when I was a chief of staff—a personal cheque at a time when a Senator is being investigated.”
“The chief of staff’s resignation means that the Senate scandal registers high on the Richter Scale — the highest since Harper almost lost his government in the 2008 coalition crisis over a fumbled budget statement. It has now reached “gate” status. It is now Duffygate.”
Michael Den Tandt
“These are the questions facing the prime minister Tuesday, as he sits down with 163 Conservative MPs (there are 164 in total, including him) whose collective reputations have been tarnished to an as-yet unknown degree by this affair: How much did you know? If you knew, what on Earth were you thinking?”
“Surely the wrong man has quit!”
A sampling of what’s being said on Twitter:
I really feel for Nigel Wright. It was the right thing to do.
— Joan Crockatt MP (@Crockatteer) May 19, 2013
— Phil vonFinckenstein (@PhilvF) May 19, 2013
I’ve known Nigel Wright since the mid-1980s. I can think of nobody in politics in the US, UK and Canada whom I admire more.
— davidfrum (@davidfrum) May 19, 2013
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 9:45 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Ted Opitz attempts to sum up Nigel Wright’s resignation.
Nigel Wright is a patriot. A man with honour. If he made a mistake, it was a gentleman’s mistake. One made with the truest of intentions.
Wright gone but still not wrong? See today’s resignation statements – no acceptance of wrongdoing … Harper’s statement does nothing to condemn the $90,000 secret payment – the spin is still Wright as gallant knight … The claim is Harper knew nothing abt the Wright-Duffy secret deal, yet #PMSH has so far retroactively endorsed it by not once condemning it.
Mr. Wright’s statement explains that he’s stepping down because of the “controversy.” He regrets the “impact.” That sounds a lot like part of Mr. Duffy’s explanation for voluntarily—via Mr. Wright’s largesse—paying back his housing allowance. Mr. Duffy didn’t want to be a distraction. Mr. Duffy “filled out the forms in good faith,” but “rather than let this issue drag on” he and his wife had decided that the allowance would be repaid. Mr. Wright “intended solely to secure the repayment of funds,” which he “considered to be in the public interest,” but “in light of the controversy” he was resigning.
Mr. Duffy at least allowed that he “may have been mistaken.” And Mr. Opitz at least allows for the possibility that Mr. Wright also may have made a mistake, even if only of the gentlemanly variety.
So do Conservatives believe Mr. Wright did something wrong? Does the Prime Minister believe his chief of staff did anything wrong? And, if so, how do they think he erred? Merely in being too generous a man and too selfless a public servant?
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
Two hours after Nigel Wright resigned, The West Block aired an interview with Brent Rathgeber, the noticeably independent-minded Conservative MP. It seems this mess is not going over well with Conservative supporters.
Tom Clark: Is this hurting the Conservative brand in your area?
Brent Rathgeber: Well it is to a certain extent. I think the irony of this situation to some extent is, I hear from constituents all the time; daily, weekly and individuals for the most part that are calling or e-mailing me with respect to recent stories that are coming out of the Senate are not the normal people that are critical of the government or critical of me. These are actually more people that I consider to be our supporters, that they expect public officials to hold themselves up to an exceptionally high standard of conduct and it’s those individuals … Who I mean I identify with because I’m one of them. I do advocate for respect for taxpayers and for treating public resources effectively and legally, and respectfully. So, it’s among individuals who I consider to be my supporters who seem to be the most upset as this story continues to roll out.
And then there is this from Mr. Rathgeber.
Tom Clark: You’re going to be back here in Ottawa next week when the House resumes, you’re going to have an opportunity to speak to the leaders of the party, to the prime minister. What do you want to ask Stephen Harper about this whole situation?
Brent Rathgeber: Well my biggest concern and it has been my concern for some time, even before this story broke in the last few weeks, and that’s what I see as an inadequate degree of separation between the legislative and executive branches of government. The senators in question and myself, we are parliamentarians. We are legislators and our job is to vet and ultimately vote on, yay or nay on legislation that’s before the respective houses. And most of that legislation is government sponsored and government drafted legislation. And when there’s inadequate separation I would suggest between the executive and of course the prime minister’s office is at the very apex of the executive. When there’s inadequate separation between those two institutions, it appears to me that both are compromised. I mean I don’t … as a legislator I don’t want to be beholden or indebted to individuals from the executive at any level.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM - 0 Comments
For the eternal record, here is the statement of Nigel Wright this morning.
“In light of the controversy surrounding my handling of matters involving Senator Duffy, the Prime Minister has accepted my resignation as Chief of Staff.
“My actions were intended solely to secure the repayment of funds, which I considered to be in the public interest, and I accept sole responsibility. I did not advise the Prime Minister of the means by which Sen. Duffy’s expenses were repaid, either before or after the fact.
“I regret the impact of this matter on the Government, our Caucus, and all of my colleagues, for whom I have the highest regard. I came to Ottawa to do my part in providing good government for Canada, and that is all that I ever wanted and worked for in this role.”
And here is the statement of the Prime Minister.
“It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff. I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign. I want to thank Nigel for his tremendous contribution to our Government over the past two and a half years.
“Our Government’s top priority is, and will continue to be, securing jobs and economic growth for Canada. This is the focus of all our efforts and attention.”
That last sentence of the Prime Minister’s is a bit silly given everything that has been the focus of his office’s effort and attention this past week, but perhaps he can’t be blamed for trying to conclude on a positive note.
It would be interesting to know whether Mr. Wright had offered his resignation before this morning. As of Thursday, the Prime Minister’s director of communications was refusing to say whether such an offer had been made and the Prime Minister was said to have full confidence in his chief of staff. (Update 12:40pm. An insider offers one version of events to the Globe.)
It has only gotten worse since then.
Mr. Wright has been reported to have been involved in a deal to whitewash the Senate investigation of Mike Duffy. Pamela Wallin has departed the Conservative caucus amid questions about her spending. Patrick Brazeau has produced an email that he says is evidence he did nothing wrong in claiming a housing allowance. And an anonymous Conservative MP has claimed to be “full of rage” over the whole thing. CTV’s Robert Fife is apparently reporting that Conservative MPs wanted Mr. Wright to depart.
Rob Walsh, former parliamentary law clerk, gave an interview last week to CBC radio’s The House, in which he used the phrase “unbelievable” to describe Mr. Wright’s cheque for Mr. Duffy. Here are four of the five.
This, to me, is unbelievable, frankly. It just simply is unbelievable. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It is unbelievable, to my judgement, at that level something like this could have happened.
Where did they think they were going with this? It’s just simply unbelievable. That’s why it begs for explanation [...] a credible explanation, ostensibly by some third party, not the Senate doing its explanation and the Prime Minister’s Office doing their explanation, which should be forthcoming, no question. They need some referee to step in and look at the facts and examine it and report to Canadians whether there was anything that puts into question the integrity of the government or the Senate.
Unbelievable, of course, has a couple meanings, but either might be applied here. It is an adjective that all sides might agree to apply to this mess. But it is something that must be accounted for, regardless of whether Mr. Wright was to be working now for the Prime Minister or Gerry Schwartz or whoever. What were the terms of his deal with Mike Duffy? At the very least there should be House committee hearings, perhaps as early as this week (perhaps encouraged by the government backbenchers who have lately sought to demonstrate their interest in the principles of parliamentary democracy?), to begin to investigate this matter. Mr. Wright should be called for. Mr. Duffy should be invited.
This government has always seemed to have a keen understanding of what it could get away with or at least an ability to get away with things. No one had to resign over in-and-out and the government won a promotion after being found in contempt of Parliament. Maybe all governments possess such resiliency, up until the point that they don’t. Maybe this government has finally done something that it cannot so easily get away with. For now, it is simply unbelievable that it is Mike Duffy’s housing allowance that should shake this government like nothing else since the late fall of 2008.
By Paul Wells - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 11:21 AM - 0 Comments
From the Harper profile John Geddes and I wrote two years ago:
Someone who was there paraphrased Harper’s message to his ministers at his first cabinet meeting in 2006: “I am the kingpin. So whatever you do around me, you have to know that I am sacrosanct.” Harper was telling his ministers that they were expendable but that he wasn’t. If they had to go so that his credibility and his ability to get things done were protected, so be it.
“It wasn’t personal,” this source said. “It was his office.”
The doctoring of a Senate internal economy committee report to erase some references to Mike Duffy’s conduct was perfectly consistent with Stephen Harper’s long-standing preference for making questions go away rather than answering them. Nigel Wright’s resignation is an expression of Harper’s style, not a repudiation of it.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 10:48 AM - 0 Comments
And so suddenly Ray Novak is the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.
Full disclosure to be applied from this point forward: Mr. Novak and I first crossed paths in university, he as a student politician, me as a student journalist covering student politics. He ran for student council president and lost. But he seems to have done all right since then.
Here is the profile I wrote of Mr. Novak two years ago. He is the Prime Minister’s longest-serving aide, an individual who once slept in the bunk above the garage at Stornoway when Mr. Harper was leader of the opposition.
Now it is Mr. Novak to whom Mr. Harper turns at one of the most critical moments in his premiership.
By John Geddes - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
Nigel Wright’s resignation from his position as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff suggests two possible paths ahead for the story of Wright’s strange decision to cut Sen. Mike Duffy a $90,000 cheque.
The first path starts from the perspective, best expressed in Scott Reid’s insightful column in yeterday’s Ottawa Citizen, that Wright dipped into his personal wealth to pay off Duffy’s illegitimately collected Senate expenses out of a perhaps overly developed sense of a dutiful political aide’s responsibility to stamp out fires before they threaten to engulf the boss.
By macleans.ca - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 9:08 AM - 0 Comments
Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, announced his resignation on Sunday morning.
Click here for our comprehensive coverage of the scandal involving Senator Mike Duffy’s expense payments.
In a statement, Stephen Harper said he accepted the news with deep regret.
In November 2012, Maclean’s included Wright on its list of Ottawa power players. Here is what we wrote about him at the time:
The morning papers had brought bad news—a prominent Montreal businessman delivering a scathing critique of a new government policy. And the consensus around the conference table in the Prime Minister’s Office was that the reply should be in kind: a few well-placed leaks to the media to put the spotlight on the executive’s own shortcomings to serve as a warning not to mess with Ottawa. Or at the very least, soften him up as a prelude to negotiations.
It was one of the first decisions that Nigel Wright faced when he took over as Stephen Harper’s chief of staff in January 2011. He took notes as everyone in the room had their say, asking occasional questions. Then he made a statement of principle. Regardless of how things had been done in the past, this wasn’t how the PMO was going to operate on his watch. Instead, the Harvard-educated lawyer turned Bay Street dealmaker went to call the disgruntled CEO. A half-hour later, Wright returned; the man was amenable to talking and had cleared the next two hours of his schedule to work out a deal. The crisis was over by lunchtime. “There were no political fireworks, and no one was damaged any further. The issue was just dealt with,” says one Conservative who was in the room. “That’s the way Nigel is: a success-oriented, behind-the-scenes guy who understands how to play the game, but isn’t out to win at any price.”
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 3:12 PM - 0 Comments
First, CTV says Pamela Wallin was forced out amid concerns about the audit of her expenses. Next, CTV says the Senate’s report on Mike Duffy was edited as part of a deal with Nigel Wright. Via Twitter, the Prime Minister’s director of communications denies CTV’s report that the Prime Minister might prorogue Parliament in early June.
The weekly meeting of the Conservative caucus, which normally occurs on Wednesday, has been rescheduled for Tuesday morning before the Prime Minister departs for Peru. The Star describes this as an emergency caucus meeting at which the Prime Minister is expected to set out a zero tolerance policy on spending transgressions.
Jason Fekete notes that Mr. Duffy, Ms. Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were all nominated for the Senate on the same day—December 22, 2008—along with 15 other Conservative appointees. But that date is particularly interesting for everything that occurred in the month preceding it.
In the 2006 election, the Conservatives promised to not appoint to the Senate anyone who hadn’t won a mandate to do so from voters. And up until December 22, 2008, Stephen Harper had only appointed two senators—Michael Fortier, shortly after the 2006 election, so that Mr. Fortier might serve in cabinet, and Bert Brown in 2007 with Mr. Brown having won a Senate election in Alberta.
Then Stephen Harper almost lost his government.
Four weeks before those 18 appointees were announced, the Conservative government tabled its fall economic update (the last such economic update to be tabled in the House, actually). The measures contained therein, including the elimination of the public subsidy for political parties, had precipitated coalition talks between the Liberals and New Democrats. On December 1, the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois announced their accord. Facing an imminent vote of non-confidence and the possible replacement of his government with a coalition government led by Stephane Dion, Mr. Harper asked the Governor General, Michaelle Jean at the time, to prorogue Parliament. After some consideration, she agreed to do so.
The coalition’s moment might have thus passed, but it was not yet officially dead. The Liberals quickly installed Michael Ignatieff as leader and he maintained that the coalition was an option. Not until Parliament reconvened in late January and a new budget was tabled, did Mr. Ignatieff effectively kill the coalition.
Just as Mr. Ignatieff was taking over the Liberal caucus, the Prime Minister’s Office revealed that Mr. Harper would fill 18 Senate vacancies before Christmas. A debate about the legitimacy of doing so ensued. Mr. Harper claimed to be in a difficult spot that compelled him to do something. And then, on December 22, Mr. Harper named his 18 appointees, asserting that the appointments were important both in the pursuit of Senate reform and in the interests of opposing the coalition.
“Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate,” said the Prime Minister. “If Senate vacancies are to be filled, however, they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for.”
The incoming Senators have all pledged to support eight-year term limits and other Senate reform legislation. Each incoming Senator has also declared his or her unwavering commitment to support Canadian unity and oppose the coalition.
This did not go over terribly well with Mr. Harper’s opponents.
“Mr. Harper knows that he does not have the confidence of the House of Commons,” Ignatieff said in a statement. “Appointing senators when he lacks a mandate from Parliament is not acceptable.”
It’s possible that the coalition was less a cause of the appointments than an excuse to make them. And possibly Mr. Harper was going to have to appoint senators at some point anyway (he’d hinted at such a possibility in October 2008). But December 22, 2008 does now seem like the plot point of a bad political thriller.
Four and a half years later, the Harper government’s Senate reform legislation is collecting dust while the Supreme Court prepares to hear a reference on the matter and three of the December 2008 appointees have either been removed or removed themselves from the Conservative caucus.
By Nancy Macdonald - Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 10:18 AM - 0 Comments
B.C. Premier Christy Clark in conversation with Maclean’s B.C. correspondent Nancy Macdonald:
Q: That was a grueling, 28-day battle. Now that the election’s over, are you going to take some time for yourself?
A: Hamish, my son, has never been to New York, so we’re going to take three days this weekend, and go to New York together.
Q: A celebratory trip?
A: It’s a thank-you trip. Win or lose, we were going to go. For 28 days I’ve hardly seen him. He was able to stay a few nights with me, during the campaign. He lives half-time with his dad, then half-time with me. And on my weeks, he went and lived with another family because I was gone. So we’ve really missed each other.
Q: I wanted to ask about the impact of all this on Hamish. British Columbia is unique—you just don’t see the degree of vitriol, the polarization, the incredibly harsh media commentary elsewhere in the country. How does an 11-year-old handle hearing these things about his mom?
A: We don’t get the newspapers at home because of that; it started to get really difficult for him. We used to read the paper—at our kitchen at home, over breakfast in the morning. He’d read it back to front because he’d start with the sports pages. We had to stop getting it because the commentary was so harsh.
Q: At what point was this?
A: Six months in—fall, 2011. There was a revealing moment for me on election night; he never talks to me about things people say to him, because he wants to protect me, right? He doesn’t want me to know that people have said bad things about me. He was sitting on my lap on election night, we’d won, and he said: “Wow, mom, you did it.” I said, “Well, sweetheart, do you want to sleep in tomorrow? You’ve earned a sleep in, you don’t have to go to school first thing in the morning.” He said, “Are you kidding me? I’m going to go to school, and all of those people who’ve been who made fun of me, and made fun of you—I’m going to go have a talk with them.” It was the first time he’d told me that there were issues for him at school that he was taking on.
Q: I remember watching your platform launch in Vancouver a month ago. You’d just seen the Liberal party through an ugly ethnic outreach scandal; you’d had to issue a public apology to the people of B.C.; your party was sitting 20 points behind the NDP—an unsurmountable gap, or so we thought at the time. You’d been completely written off—by media, pundits, even some in your own party. I was completely taken aback that day by your optimism, your confidence in the face of pretty overwhelming odds. Where did it come from? Were you putting it on?
A: I never doubted that we could win the election because I knew how important it was. I knew that if we did succeed, we’d have the chance to shape the future for a generation. So I was so committed to it, and when you’re really committed to something it helps you believe. I had a great team—they gave me their hearts. Think of the candidates we recruited—people who came on board when everybody was telling them they were going to lose: [former Vancouver mayor] Sam Sullivan, [three-term Langley mayor] Peter Fassbender, [high-profile, former Vancouver city councilor] Suzanne Anton—these are fantastic candidates. Peter Fassbender was running in an NDP-held riding! We all were seeing something that the media wasn’t seeing; that certainly, pollsters weren’t seeing. We saw it. We knew that the economy was going to be the central question. And we knew that we had a good plan for the economy. And I knew in my heart that once we had a chance to talk to people about the economy, about our vision, that we’d start to see a few heads nodding. I knew I’d get the chance in the election, and the TV debate.
Q: A strange thing happened after the TV debate. Going into it, pundits said that all NDP leader Adrian Dix had to do was show up, and not embarrass himself. He did both those things and was roundly declared the winner. But, as polls later that week showed, the TV debate changed a lot of minds in your favour; it was clearly a turning point. Why do you think you were declared the loser?
A: People didn’t say that; the media did. There are two schools of thought: you’ve got to get the knock-out punch. The other is my school of thought: you’re not talking to the media.
Q: How did media and pollsters get this election so wrong?
A: There was a well-established narrative—that I wasn’t going to succeed, that I couldn’t succeed, that I was a certain kind of person. I don’t really understand that. Maybe their bosses will have to ask them in their performance reviews this year.
Q: Three days ahead of the vote, your internal pollster had you at 48 seats—a comfortable majority [Clark would go on to win 50 seats, while the NDP won 33].
At that point, did you finally allow yourself to relax?
A: I never knew what the polls were saying; and I never asked.
Q: Not even internal polling?
A: No, I never knew.
Q: Really? Was that a deliberate tactic?
A: Not really. I’m not superstitious about that kind of thing. I just didn’t think it was relevant. Twenty-eight days is hard… Every day you have to be at the top of your game. Because you’re trying to communicate important things to people through the media; and you don’t get many chances to do this, so every one of those opportunities matters. And so what did it matter what the polls said? No, I mean really: what does it matter? If we were up or down I was still going to work hard, I was still going to keep doing exactly what I was doing—talking about the issues, talking directly to British Columbians about what I wanted to do to protect our economy. And also let them see who I was as a person; I think people vote on character as much as they vote on issues. I just didn’t see the polls as very relevant.
Q: Many believe this election was a referendum on the economy, and that you’ve been given a mandate to substantially increase natural resource development. Do you believe you’ve been given that mandate?
Q: Is that was the next four years will be about?
A: That’s exactly right. That is the core of our plan: grow the economy. British Columbia has always grown its economy based on the natural resource sector: mining, forestry, natural gas. They’re big, export-oriented sectors, and we have huge opportunities in China and India that we are going to pursue. One of the important threads in the campaign I really wanted people to connect with is how our resource economy drives our urban economies, how interconnected we are in Vancouver with Fort Nelson. Now, we need to drive the technology sector, the creative sector. But the tech sector is intimately connected with the resource sector. Technology is a huge part of natural gas extraction, and it’s big in mining. There are some natural synergies we’re going to build on as well.
Q: When it comes to natural resource development, you’ve got a good partner next door in Alberta. But you and Alberta premier Alison Redford have had a famously ugly relationship in the last 12 months. There are early signs that’s changing; is there a warming of relations?
A: Well I talked to her yesterday, and we had a really nice chat. We’re hopefully going to meet in the next couple of weeks. We have a lot more in common than we do differences: we believe in a strong private sector economy; we are resource-based economies; we believe in low taxes and paying off debt. I talked to her yesterday about all the things we have in common and how we can build on the partnership we have. I think we will have a very constructive relationship. And yes, we have had a very public disagreement about the Enbridge pipeline and heavy oil movement. But you know, everything is resolvable. I know it’s been public—but that’s a really small part of our relationship, overall. It’s like a marriage: you might fight about who takes out the garbage, but you still sit down and have dinner together, and plan a future for your kids.
Q: What do you make of the latest senate scandal?
A: I don’t think the Senate is a particularly relevant body. We’ve brought forth legislation in B.C. to elect a senator. The highjinks there—to me, it’s a bit of a distraction. What happens in the Senate really doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. When I look to the rest of the country, what I’m thinking about is: How do we build our economy in B.C. so that we are big contributor to Confederation? We have a chance with natural gas. When you think of the contribution Alberta makes to our economy—we are going to make exactly the same contribution to our national economy. B.C. has never pulled its weight in Canada and we are finally in a position to start doing that. The country really needs us right now. Things aren’t good in Ontario and Quebec, and in other parts of the country. We’re going to step up.
Q: The NDP had crafted a campaign plan they were sure would bring them a majority; it flopped pretty spectacularly. What went wrong?
A: You’re going to have to ask them. I just focused on trying to do the best job that I possibly could. We didn’t make a lot of extravagant promises, money-wise, but we are going to build that prosperity fund; we are going to start paying off our debt. We’re going to keep that budget balanced, and we’re going to start freezing and lowering taxes as soon as we can.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 7:35 PM - 0 Comments
This might otherwise have been the week that a government with a notable aversion to the legislature was reelected in a vote that included the ballots of just 52% of eligible voters. This might otherwise have been the week that Peter Penashue, he of the disputed campaign finances and boasting of holding up public projects in Newfoundland for the sake of a highway in Labrador, was soundly defeated in a by-election. Instead this was the week of Mike Duffy. At least in those places where it was not the week of Rob Ford. Or the mayor of Laval’s envelopes.
This was more specifically, at least in Ottawa and at least where people care about how public officials are behaving in regards to public funds, the week of Mr. Duffy’s housing allowance. Something like $90,172.24, including interest and some disputed per diems, spread over a few years.
Could this possibly have been worth that much? Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 6:32 PM - 0 Comments
What’s next for Mike Duffy? And what’s next for Nigel Wright? John Geddes and Aaron Wherry consider the questions of the day:
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 5:51 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Senator Pamela Wallin.
I have been involved in the external audit process since December 2012 and I have been cooperating fully and willingly with the auditors. I have met with the auditors, answered all the questions and provided all requested documentation.
I had anticipated that the audit process would be complete by now, but given that it continues, I have decided to recuse myself from the Conservative Caucus and I will have no further comment until the audit process is complete.
And a succinct statement from Conservative Senate leader Marjory LeBreton.
“Senator Wallin has informed me that she has resigned from Caucus to sit as an independent.”
CTV reported in February that Ms. Wallin had paid back some amount of expenses, but Ms. Wallin declined to confirm that.